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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Inside the War Room: Look at the Days Before the Invasion of Baghdad

Aired June 4, 2003 - 19:31   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We turn now to our continuing series "Inside the War Room." It's an exclusive glimpse at U.S. military leaders and how they gather realtime information they use to protect American forces on the ground.
Now when U.S. troops were about to enter Baghdad in early April, their commanders were worried they were not getting the intelligence they needed and they thought the intelligence should have been promised by the CIA. As we've told you this week, the access we had was unprecedented and because of that, some of the video you're about to see did have prior security review.

One more note, these are men and women at war. Because of that, some of the language you hear is graphic. CNN's Mike Boettcher takes us now into the center of the action at ground forces' headquarters as the battle for Baghdad unfolded.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where we are now is we're just about two kilometers outside the Baghdad International Airport.

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first objective in the battle for Baghdad is within sight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In about ten minutes they're going to begin an attack to seize the airport. Shirhad (ph).

They will either have it in about three hours or they will find enough obstacles that they will continue the attack tonight or wait till first light.

BOETTCHER: By the next morning the Army's 5th Corps controls the airport.

LT. GEN. DAVID MCKIERNAN, COMMANDING GENERAL: All right, look, we're at the decisive point of this ground campaign here.

BOETTCHER: Now, General McKiernan is ready to take the attack downtown.

MCKIERNAN: I feel strongly about once you have seized the initiative, don't let go of it. So if you have your hands around his neck, don't let go, just squeeze harder. BOETTCHER: Before they can squeeze harder, they have to deal with a problem, what they see is unreliable humans, human intelligence from CIA sources inside Baghdad.

On April 3, General McKiernan decides to change the Marine's approach into Baghdad because warns him away from Saddam City, a Shi'ite stronghold.

MCKIERNAN: Colonel Brown (ph), this is General McKiernan. We have some pretty good intel that the urban defense of Baghdad, there has been a lot of effort weighted in Saddam City which is across from Objective Texans (ph). So I want him to secure objective ravens (ph) and to start to work as he sees fit into the southeastern part of Baghdad.

BOETTCHER: But it turns out the intelligence wasn't solid. Not enough sources on the ground.

MCKIERNAN: Intel has been slow to come. The only way you get good intelligence is you got to get people in on the ground in this case. Imagery's not going to produce that.

KEN ROBINSON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: When it came time for central intelligence to provide that tactical intelligence on the ground, they weren't able to do it. And so the generals had a large meeting and had the CIA come in that night to try to explain what the realities really were on the ground.

BOETTCHER: Days later another CIA tip. One of many about Saddam Hussein's family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, a report that just came in from the CIA that was also a report of Uday and potentially his family in the district.

BOETTCHER: This lead didn't pan out either.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Our series continues tomorrow when we'll have a look at the generals as they were choosing targets to hit during the battle for Baghdad.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com



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